Author Topic: Publishing and early century texts  (Read 954 times)

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Offline Shiny

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Publishing and early century texts
« on: September 20, 2011, 05:31:27 AM »
Not sure if this belongs here but what the hey..

So considering that there wasn't really a printing press distrubting the Bible till maybe 15th century-ish? How exactly would the Desert Fathers, for example, ever get their hands on a copy of the Bible? In St. Anthony's story he locked himself up in a fort for over two decades reading the Bible all the time, but what kind of Bible would he have?

I would think having a Bible would be pretty costly to have during the early centuries.

Just some random questions I'd like to know more about.
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Offline Hiwot

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Re: Publishing and early century texts
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2011, 05:46:00 AM »
I just want to say that is by far one of the most profound questions you could ask my brother. seeing as these days there is such an unquestioning presumption that the bible as we know it existed since the beginning of Christianity. when in fact the more you learn about how the early Christians get access to Holy Scripture and how did the Romans get to read what was written to the Galatians, or the Thessalonians to the Ephesians and so forth. then there is the matter of the four Gospels, how did we get the four into the canon etc... please keep asking, and next time you go to church for the DL hear the readings as if you were one of those early Christians as if you are among those who is hearing it read while hiding in the catacombs , or repeated to you by those who heard it. it will bring a new perspective to the readings at the time of the DL. as a child I used to pretend I was in one of those catacombs when the reading is done so I will listen with all my body turned into ears as if hearing it for the first time lol with a zeal of a child. I think you asked an excellent question. I hope our learned friends here will answer you well.
.. so I am saying all this just to say 'Great questions man!' ;D
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Offline jah777

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Re: Publishing and early century texts
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2011, 09:35:26 AM »
A book has been written on the use of the Scriptures by the Desert Fathers, and while I have not read it in its entirety, much of it can be accessed online and may be of help:

I do not recall St. Anthony having a copy of the Scriptures with him in the fortress, but if you have a specific quote regarding this perhaps you could share it.  In the desert, some monks were literate and some were not.  Some spoke strongly against having any possessions, including books or copies of the Scriptures.  The churches where the ascetics would gather would probably have a copy of the Scriptures, and it seems that those who could read were allowed to spend time outside of the services reading the Scriptures in the church.  Those who were literate would copy out what they found valuable.  Those who were illiterate would still hear the Scriptures read in church, and in the verbal counsels of the elders, and would commit the Scriptures to memory.   

Of course, the situation of monks in the desert is not comparable to our lives today in the world, where the majority of people are literate and are taking in a tremendous quantity and variety of impressions and content through various means.  St. John Chrysostom in the fourth century stated that it was even more important for those in the world to read the Scriptures than it was for monks.  He said that those in the world should labor to acquire copies of the Scriptures even though doing so was very expensive.  In the very least, according to him, one should labor to acquire one book of the Gospels.

Here is a quote from St. John regarding the importance of Scripture reading for the laity:

“I am not,” you will say, “one of the monks, but I have both a wife and children, and the care of a household.” Why, this is what hath ruined all, your supposing that the reading of the divine Scriptures appertains to those only, when ye need it much more than they. For they that dwell in the world, and each day receive wounds, these have most need of medicines. So that it is far worse than not reading, to account the thing even “superfluous:” for these are the words of diabolical invention. Hear ye not Paul saying, “that all these things are written for our admonition”?

Of course, these words from St. John bring us to shame, for many of us have not just one copy of the Scriptures but several different translations, and yet we do not read them or reflect on them as we should.  In the Desert, fathers would spend a year or more struggling to live out a single verse from the Scriptures, whereas we can easily read the Scriptures through in their entirety in a single year without applying any of it.  I wonder what St. John Chrysostom would say to us if he were alive today? 

Here is a link to some additional quotes from St. John Chrysostom regarding the importance of knowing and reading the Scriptures:
« Last Edit: September 20, 2011, 09:50:30 AM by jah777 »